Time And Innovation

Shortly after awakening this morning, I shut off the “Goodnight” sleep monitoring function of my Galaxy Watch. Then scrolled through the apps to decipher the quality or lack of quality of my sleep. I was pleased to find that over an hour and a half of REM sleep and nearly an hour of deep sleep were displayed. Then I turned off the watch and began the day.

Part of my post-awakening routine is to wind some of the vintage watches in my humble collection. They include two Swiss built watches from the late 1960s. On some days I wind the movement of my grandfather’s old pocket watch that my uncle gave me a couple of months ago. I’m especially careful with it because I don’t know the state of its mainspring. I want to have it serviced someday.

I found most of my watches at thrift stores and estate sales. They’re what collectors classify as “affordable watches”. The various movements include wind-up mechanical, automatic mechanical, quartz, solar-powered quartz, a quartz watch that monitors the government’s time standard radio frequency, and the electronic smart watch mentioned above. All of these were the result of technological breakthroughs at some moments in time.

“When people consume, they want more. Then they choose the best, and you suddenly get innovation coming in. Now combine that with desperation and people wanting to get a better life; you have a potent combination for innovation.”–CEO of the Mumbai, India based conglomerate, Mahindra Group, Anand Mahindra

Of course, consumerism is one of the major drivers of innovation. People are drawn to products that are new and improved. Other major innovations were the products and off-shoots of military need. Watches are a small but important example of this.

In the 19th century, officers carried pocket watches so as to coordinate attacks and other troop movements. Then in the 20th century, during the Great War (World War One), men’s watchmakers took a page from women’s watches. Lugs were applied to watch cases so that soldiers and pilots could wear time on their wrists. After the Armistice, the former military personnel continued to wear wristwatches because the watches were so convenient. The entire watch industry shifted to manufacturing this highly useful innovation.

After the middle of the century, the Swiss and simultaneously a Japanese company invented quartz timekeeping. These electronic devices completely circumvented standard mechanical watch and clock movements. Eventually, quartz dominated the market and nearly decimated the traditional time-keeping industry. Quartz watches can now be bought for a few dollars. Meanwhile automatic and mechanical watches sell for higher prices and are targeted at the collector market.

Ironically, many people only wear watches as fashion jewelry or do not wear one at all. They use their phones to keep track of time. My friend Jonathan sometimes wears a fashion watch but rarely consults it for the time. I’ve often reminded him to set it after changes to and from daylight savings time. One time its battery was dead and in need of replacement for over a month. He only uses his phone to obtain the time.

I wonder when watches and phones will eventually be phased out altogether. The only watches will be on the wrists of collectors. What will be the replacements?


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes policy analyst and scientist, Vaclav Smil. “Most innovation is not done by research institutes and national laboratories. It comes from manufacturing–from companies that want to extend their product reach, improve their costs, increase their returns. What’s very important is in-house research.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Contemplation, cultural highlights, Gadgets, Hobbies, Vintage Collectables and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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